The call for entries at the 2011 edition coincided nicely with the annual "what on earth do we do now?!" question that follows Karapoti. I emailed Simon suggested we enter as a duo, and soon after was doing the paper work. That done, any discussions we had of the event invariably focussed on our attire.
One of the things I've enjoyed about the last 6 months is being pulled out of my comfort zone, and I figured why do it alone. With that in mind, Simon and I had agreed to compete in costume - his first time since dressing as Mary Poppins during a wharf-jumping comp in 1996 - but it was less simple to find an appropriate angle.
Initially I was keen for Batman and Robin - I thought Simon would make a stunning Batman, with me as Robin. I'm sure that would have been a bit of a hoot, and challenged usual stereotypes somewhat. My mate wasn't keen... We considered Thomson and Thompson, of Tintin fame, but worried about how we'd be able to make the outfits distinctive, and soon but the kibosh on that idea too.
Little did we know, but all the while, at least part of my costume was merrily growing on my chin.
One of my favourite TV shows as a boy had been Robin of Sherwood...
... and I'd even watched it recently with Kaitlyn (at least until Jason Connery replaced Michael Praed as Robin). Whichever of us suggested we dress as Robin Hood and Little John is lost to me, but I do recall instant agreement. Robin Hood and Little John would ride at the 2011 Wainuiomata 6 Hour Wurldz!
The month or so leading up to the event gave us a bit of time to sort our gear. Simon's mother-in-law Shona generously offered to sew up some outlaw booties for us, and did a stunning job at that. She borrowed a pair of shoes from each of us, and we ended up with covers that would sit tightly around our shoes yet leave our cleats exposed! Wicked!
Simon's wife Sarah sewed our hooded shirts one evening during the ad breaks on Survivor. Simon had a jersey from the 80s which wouldn't need any alteration at all, and was perfect for our purposes. While super convenient, it was alarming that he would have worn it while not impersonating Robin Hood!
Accessories were obtained from all over the place. I emailed my good friend Ranger Steve, asking him to keep an eye out for a staff for me. I figured he might spot something while out and about in Wellington City's awesome Parks and Gardens. Within minutes though he'd responded saying he already had the perfect thing in his garage! Sweet! A few days from the event, Simon was busy at Revolution Bicycles making arrows while the rest of us ate chips and dip and talked shit. He'd made his bow earlier in the week and had a bunch of costume feathers from a $2 shop. On Saturday I'd headed to a costume place on Thorndon Quay to hire a bit of leather stuff from the Xena box, and we were soon sorted.
Race day came, and before collecting Jonty and Alex, Simon and I got suited up to make sure Sarah had a chance to admire (hopefully) her handiwork.
|Off to the races!|
I was delegated to ride the start lap, and thought I'd better try get my legs a bit warm. I was joined for a lap around the Wetland Loop by Danny Boy, looking resplendent in a pair of very short shorts seen a few months earlier, hauling around the Wild Wellington course. Dan was one of many whose company I enjoyed briefly on the day, and someone whose wisdom and kind words I've been privileged to receive recently. At the end of our short loop, we wished each other well, and made our final preparations for the onslaught that would soon come.
I'd barely any experience riding at Wainui, so the briefing had made little sense to me. Mostly the message was simple though - follow the leader!
I was standing next to Dave Aldred, one of the highlights of any event he graces with his presence, nervously awaiting the gun. Dave was just finishing adding a bit of air to his rear tyre when all of a sudden a whooshing sound was heard. In fact, I'd done exactly the same thing prior to a ride on Mt Vic with Simon a week earlier. It seems the flexy hoses between valve and pump are back in fashion, but they suck when it comes to valves with removable cores. When you unscrew the hose, the valve core tends to unscrew with it, and unless you're very lucky, the tyre will come off the bead, and it'll be tube-time. In my leather pouch was a brand new pump, of the direct-mount variety. Luckily Davo managed to get his tyre reinflated before the gun went off. Tense stuff though!
|Davo retrieves his valve core, photo: Pete Marshall|
The start (half) loop was my best ride of the day. Despite not being particularly ready to roll, the open, fast terrain suited me. I was suffering like a dog though by the time we passed through the transition area. Simon called "do you want to do a second lap?" to which I responded "Fuck no!" As a result, he was standing waiting to go when I'd looped around to pass him a minute later - I thought he'd meant a second full lap after my first full lap, but clearly he was offering to take over immediately!
Within seconds of disappearing into the trees, I started to struggle as the course tightened up and began to climb. Soon I was cursing my fast start, and slowly but surely slid back through the field. Things got no better when the course tipped down, and I struggled to find, let alone maintain, any decent flow. I did really enjoy being back down on the Wetland Loop, but that was soon over and it was into more tight singletrack. After a series of switchbacks which pushed me well into the red, it was onto Beeline, and I faltered at the first drop, running down alongside my bike, in one piece at least. A few minutes later, I was relieved to hand over to Simon.
We soon established some rhythm, each doing a couple of laps, and slowing only for a quick drink and a bit of encouragement as we passed through the transition area. For a couple of laps I chased young Eden Cruise, who I'd last seen during his debut ride at Karapoti - the youngest ever finisher at age nine! I could almost match him on the long climb, but he'd scoot away on the descent. Sadly, I eventually did pass him - he'd punctured on the way down Snail Trail. Good to yarn to his old man (and head mechanic) too!
Many of the issues I'd had on my first lap were resolved by the end of my second double - I was managing to keep my bootie out of my chainrings, and I'd worked out not to follow the track right at the point it connected across to Beeline, and instead make the unintuitive left turn.
On the flip side, I hadn't sorted the double-pronged tree on a left-hand bend some way up the climb, and constantly rode into it. Nor was I really feeling overly competent and continued to struggle on the tight-stuff. It was looking like a tough day at the office.
While my own riding wasn't going well, Simon was hauling, and while he was out, the atmosphere around the transition area was awesome. We were visited by Sarah, Miro and Shona, and my Mum and Kaitlyn popped in too. I busted them sifting with the "Ladies who Lunch" and had to head over there to make sure I got some quality time of my own! While there, I made myself useful by not only sampling some of the delicious lunch on offer (Amanda's Lemon Cake Oh YES!) but also snapping a photo of the team mid-transition.
|Ladies who Lunch, as Ma and Katy look on|
As the race progressed, my riding didn't improve much, but at least I wasn't getting any slower - my endurance wasn't being tested nearly as much as my skill level. We'd done a good job with the costume design though, and riding in this non-traditional gear was pretty good. I was missing gloves a little, but apart from a couple of tender spots - some caused by clipping trees - coped fine. Occasionally I'd catch one sleeve or other on a tree, and once had a bee buzzing around in my hood for a bit. My copper-lined leather gauntlets were well sodden for the duration, but were comfortable enough - I just had to remember not to wipe my nose with them - the left had a raw copper edge protruding, and the right a busted rivet!
|Photo credit: Jono Baddiley|
|Photo credit: Pete Marshall|
|Photo credit: Agnes Arnold|
|Photo credit: Jono Baddiley|
Simon scorched around for his seventh lap, and was clearly having a great day!
|Photo credit: Jono Baddiley|
|Photo credit: Pete Marshall|
I finally rustled up the nerve to ride the first drop on the Beeline section, encouraged slightly by Ashley's threat not to be my friend any more if I didn't! Incidentally, by this stage the Ladies who Lunch had become the Ladies of Raunch - if you weren't there to witness it, you have only yourselves to blame.
Soon after, Alex Revell, from Team Alex Revell, came blasting by, thereby lapping Robin Hood and Little John. It was nice to see such a lovely young man in smashing form, though I didn't get to admire it for long. A second or so was all it took to get the point though.
I inadvertently excused myself from packing up our site, and instead took the opportunity to catch up with some friends. It was nice to see Ben Wilde with his son Sasha, to congratulate Dan and Mat Wright for another ding-dong battle, and to finally get a chance to natter to Mike Anderson of Bike Hutt. Our paths seem to have crossed at terribly inopportune times of late - typically in the middle of single-speed races!
The prize-giving had a lovely vibe, and we also saw some action! Simon and I had managed a third place in the Duo class, taken out by Big Gav and Stephen Butler, with Jonty and Alex (Team Alex Revell) in second! Simon and I also were highly commended in the costume category, along with the Ladies of Raunch who Lunch, bested only by Mr T himself, complete with bike done up as the A-team's panel van. Nice work Paul!
|Paul Smith, aka Mr T|
|Highly commended! Photo: Pete Marshall|
|Photo credit: Jordan Moss|
While I'd been Mr Consistent at Wild Welly, this time it was Simon's turn - he knocked out an awesome seven laps within a 25 second time range! My fastest had been half a minute slower than his worst, and my second lap of the pairs I did tended to be about a minute slower than the first. Yuck!
While I felt like I'd struggled on the bike, my overall memories of the event are entirely positive. Riding as a duo almost completely eliminates spending any time with your partner - during our time together I was either elated (as I watched him ride away) or full of dread (as I watched him come in). While he was away though, I had been able to catch up with other friends, and though never for long, the quality was there in spades!
The organisers put on a slick show, from the entry process and marketing, through to check in and setup, course marking and marshalling, and results and prizegiving. Top notch stuff, belying the quality such a modest entry fee might imply. It was also great to see some fantastic photos spring up in Facebook albums on Monday; thanks to Agnes, Jono, Jordan and Pete for spending part or all of their day recording the event for us. The Wainui Trail Project also had the tracks in tip-top condition. I thought they held up very well despite a fair bit of rain leading up to the event.
I gathered from the man on the mike, Geoff, that Paula and Shane Wetzel were the main organisers, and so special thanks to them. Sometimes organising events can be a thankless task, but I'm sure after the show they put on, they'll be being thanked for some time to come. I'm certainly among the very many happy customers.
Paula asked after one aspect of my costume via email this morning, and I was bloody pleased to report it had been lying on my hall floor the night before!
Once again, another top-notch experience with a bit of riding thrown in. Thanks to my good buddy Simon for teaming up with me once again, and helping make a whole experience a huge amount of fun! The sun really was shining last Sunday.
PS: we're hanging onto our costumes, and will be taking applications from budding Friars Tuck, Maids Marion and Merry Men at some point in the future!